Sure, you may have to slip through the back of a bathroom to get into Bodega's back bar in Miami Beach. And the door marked "employees only" at Coyo Taco in Wynwood doubles as an entrance to its own hidden bar for those in the know. But nothing is quite as clandestine as Unit B, which opens its doors at 551 N. Federal Hwy. on the second-floor space above Flagler Village's Brass Tap.
Of course, you'll need to know where to look first.
"I love and admire speakeasy [concepts] like Raines Law Room in New York and Bordel in Chicago. New York and Chicago have a lot of amazing authentic cocktail bars, and I wanted to bring the same level of authenticity and over the top artisan cocktails to South Florida," says Unit B owner and creator Mat Baum. "We wanted to take the idea one step further."
Look hard enough, and you'll discover the entrance to Unit B on the first floor of Brass Tap's main restaurant: a simple wood-paneled door that, at first glance, appears to be nothing more than a spirit storage closet. A keypad beyond the initial entry will give you pause, however. You'll need a door code to gain access, a number that will change nightly or for special guests. To get one, a quick visit to the Unit B website will point you in the right direction.
Open from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, Unit B has a nightly maximum occupancy between 40 to 60 guests at a time, Baum says. The cap will stay in place throughout the evening to allow guests a chance to enjoy a cocktail or three.
Expect your trip to be more than your average bar stop, according to general manager Allison Graham. Patrons will be transported back in time to an era where people visited underground bars to sip illegal booze, socialize, and relax.
"Our goal is to make this space unique and different," Graham says. "The emphasis is on the experience, whether it be a surprise belly dancer or burlesque show, or a tarot card reader for the evening — the little touches we provide will make it more than just another night at the bar."
The opening menu at Unit B features eight Prohibition-inspired cocktails with a twist. Served with whimsical detail, they're meant to spirit you to a different time and place with all the sights, sounds, and aromas evocative of the 1920s.
"Here, cocktails are the essence of handcrafted from the housemade tonics, syrups, and bitters to proper execution and presentation," Graham says. "Think of this menu as a snapshot back in time, capturing the social, political, and economical landscape of the 1920s."
Take the 1920s Havana, a simple combination of rum, Cuban colada syrup, and black walnut bitters that's easily elevated when served in an etched glass teacup and smoked with a cigar leaf, instantly transporting you to the streets of Old Havana. Or try the spicy-sweet 21st Amendment, a blend of scotch, fresh lemon juice, and orange blossom honey and ginger syrups. Upon serving, the bartenders send it off with a spritzing of Laphroaig 10 from a small perfume bottle for a celebratory touch.
"Unit B will be all about the artistry of making a good drink, and everything that goes with it," Baum says.
Unit B. 551 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; viewunitb.com.